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Foreign Commerce to a subcommittee consisting of Senators. Fess, "of. Ohio; Couzens, of Michigan, and yourself.
There is no subject of national legislation that the sheep growers of Texas feel á more vital interest in than comprehensive legislation upon the subject of the requirement that fabrics manufactured from wool shall be truthfully labeled so as to divulge to the purchaser thereof the amount of virgin or previously unused wool contained in such cloth and the amount, if any, of "shoddy or reclaimed wool therein,
By reason of the discovery by chemists of a chemical treatment of rags containing used wool, a process has been devised whereby all other materials used in the making up of such cloth may be destroyed, leaving only the woolen contents, and in this manner it is a matter of public record that a great quantity of wool is being reclaimed from old clothes and rags and reworked into cloth, which when made into the garment is sold under a trade term of “pure wool
or “all wool,” thus leading the unsuspected purchasing public to the belief that the garment is made of new or formerly unused wool, whereas in fact it is a garment made largely of the product of previously used wool that has been reclaimed by the process above stated. In this manner the rag picker is brought into direct and unfair competition with the producer of virgin wools and at the same time the consumer is misled as to the article being purchased.
It is our understanding that no other fabric material such as cotton or any of the other textiles are subject to this unfair competition, but the same is confined to wool.
For years there has been pending before the Congress of the United States proposed legislation having for its purpose the correction of this condition, there being several bills along that line upon the subject.
The wool interests of the country have given close study to these several bills, and it is the undivided opinion of these producers that the Capper bill is the one that meets honestly, fairly, and fully the evil to be remedied by such legislation, and they therefore have given their constant unqualified and insistent support to this measure, as distinguished as what is known :is the * Lodge-Rogers Bill,” and other measures, the distinguishing characteristics of which are that none of them properly provide for compulsory labeling of the product showing clearly the amount of reworked wool or shoddy” contained therein as distinguished from virgin wool.
As I have said above, for years we have been working upon this proposition but have been unable so far to get results because this legislation seems to be held up in committee, and I am writing you at the instance of the wool growers of Texas, your own State, which, you no doubt know, produces a very large percentage of all the wool produced in the United States, begging that you give this legislation a very close study, that you will insist that the Capper bill shall be reported out of committee as quickly as due consideration of legislation of this importance to the country will permit of to the end that the bill may be given consideration at the present session of Congress.
Indicative of the attitude of Texas growers toward this legislation, I am inclosing you copy of a resolution upon this subject, passed unanimously at a meeting of the executive committee of the Sheep and Goat Raisers' Association of Texas held on February 14, at Del Rio, Tex.
The hearings before the committees of both the Senate and House to which this legislation has been referred, it seems to us, are so complete, and the various interests, both for and against the same, have had such opportunities for presenting their arguments pro and con, that there really would seem to be little, if any, necessity for any delay in determining just what is needed by the country along this line, and, therefore, that a reporting of the bill ought not to be delayed.
It is the deliberate and candid judgment of practically all of the wool producers of this state that this legislation would be of greater benefit to them than anything that has been proposed in recent years.
The subject is one especially calling for Federal legislation because it is in the nature of the regulation of interstate commerce, the cloth being made in one State and sold in many others; thus cloth made in Massachusetts finds its way to the consumer in Texas, and, therefore, State legislation is difficult of enforcement. In fact, truth in fabric legislation is very much along the same lines as pure food legislation, having for their purpose the revelation of truth to the consumer of manufactured articles and the contents thereof.
We are convinced that a strong measure enacted by the Federal Congress would present no difficulties of enforcement nor any great expense to the Gov.
ernment in its enforcement. True, the textile manufactures of the North and East use as their chief arguments against such legislation the bludgeon of threatened great expenditures by the Government in the enforcement of suche measure. This character of argument, however, has been made by those interested against every reform and constructively progressive proposition that has presented itself. For years the same argument was made against national pure food legislation, against the enactment of proper regulation of child labor, against the adoption of national prohibition, and a great many other subjects of constructive measures.
I assure you, Senator, that the woolgrowing interests of Texas will highly appreciate your valuable aid in procuring a favorable report upon the Capper bill and in its passage through the Senate, and they confidently depend upon you for energetic and persistent support in the premises.
On behalf of those whom this association represents, permit me to thank you in advance for your usual promptness in giving your best endeavor to a matter so vital to your constituency, I am, Yours most respectfully,
E. K. FAWCETT, President Sheep and Goat Raisers' Association of Texas. The CHAIRMAN. The hearings will be continued to-morrow at 10 o'clock, and at that time, Mr. Albins, if you have anyone else we will hear them, or anyone who wants to be heard, first on the Lodge bill for or against, and then immediately after that on any other suggestion that might be pertinent to this procedure. The committee is trying to assemble data upon which to act. The committee is therefore adjourned until 10 o'clock to-morrow.
(Whereupon, at 12 o'clock m., the committee adjourned to meet to-morrow, Friday, March 7, 1924, at 10 o'clock a. m.)
TRUTH IN FABRIC AND MISBRANDING BILLS.
FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 1924.
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to adjournment at 10 o'clock a. m., in room 410, Senate Office Building, Senator Simeon D. Fess presiding.
Present: Senators Fess (chairman of subcommittee) and Mayfield.
STATEMENT OF MR. J. J. NEVINS, SECRETARY LABELING LEGIS
LATION COMMITTEE OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF WOOLEN AND WORSTED MANUFACTURERS.
Mr. NEVINS. So much in the way of technical information and intimate analysis of the ramifications of the so-called truth in fabric bills and fabric labeling bills has been submitted to Members of Congress at different hearings during the past 20 years that it is our intent to at once avoid a technical dissertation or a restatement of much that has already been said. Nothing that could be adduced would add to the matter submitted to the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce at hearings extending from March 19 to March 22, 1920, and to a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce at hearings in July, 1921.
These are all matter of record and of course are accessible to your committee.
The campaign for labeling legislation at this moment divides itself into two parts—the French-Capper bill, which is a compulsory labeling act requiring that all woven fabrics in which wool is employed shall be labeled as to their fiber content, and the LodgeRogers bill, which is an honest merchandise act that does not compel iabeling, but provides penalties for misbranding, false labeling, or misrepresentation of any kind as applied to any commodity.
We, as manufacturers and distributers of woolen and worsted fabrics, and, so far as we know, all organizations having to do with the different divisions of the textile industry, including retailers, are opposed to the French-Capper compulsory labeling bill and are generally in favor of the Lodge-Rogers Honest Merchandise Act.
We oppose the French-Capper bill: First. Because it is discriminatory; that is to say, it is limited in its application to fabrics in which wool is employed.
Second. Because it is a compulsory labeling act, and we are in no sense convinced that to apprehend the occasional offender or overtake an occasional misrepresentation it is necessary to embark upon all the ramifications and expenses of compulsory labeling.
Third. Because compulsory labeling, as required under the French-Capper bill, would not accomplish the alleged intent of the measure; that is, protect the public from fraud and misrepresentation. Wool, because of its many grades, and the extent to which they are manipulated, does not lend itself to a simple and direct labeling. Wool is not wool in the sense that silver is sterling, or that copper is copper. In the case of these materials a commodity is either pure silver or pure copper, or something less, because it is modified by the employment of alloy. Wool, as wool, may be employed in a fabric that has immeasureable merit and value or it may be employed in a fabric that has no wearing value at all. So that to merely label a garment 100 per cent virgin wool, or to label it 60 per cent virgin wool and 40 per cent reworked wool, is to give the ultimate purchaser of that garment no guaranty whatever as to its respective merit and wearing qualities.
Moreover, it is our belief that compulsory labeling far from being an assistance will be a hindrance and will add to opportunities for deception in that under compulsory labeling the general public uninformed as to the technique of the woolen industry and without expert knowledge as to values will incline to purchase labels instead of exercising their present prerogatives of judgment, and confidence in the merchant from whom they are purchasing. Under the Lodge-Rogers Act the purchaser may ask the seller of what the fabric he is buying is made and he can cause the seller to be punished if the seller represents the article to be anything other than what it is.
Fourth. Because it is impossible of application. There are no tests, microscopic or chemical, by which wool can be distinguished from reworked wool or the respective percentages of each employed determined. It is at once apparent why this is so. Reworked wool is wool and necessarily reacts similarly to all tests. If this were not so, if it were a simple matter to determine the difference between wool and reworked wool in a given fabric and the percentage proportion of each-a valid objection to the French-Capper bill would be removed.
Fifth. Because of the cost involved in compulsory labeling, it is not possible to compute this cost and it is difficult to estimate it, but marking cloth and labeling garments can not be done without cost and when the cost per yard
and per garment is multiplied by millions, it is obvious that the ultimate sum, which will be charged to the consumer—the consumer must of course pay it—will be much larger than appears at first glance. This cost has been variously estimated at $2,000,000 to $28,000,000, depending upon the processes required. And please note that these figures make no allowance for the cost of registration or of the Government inspection service necessary for checking up the accuracy of the marks and labels.
In a word, compulsory labeling under the French-Capper Act would in our opinion set up false standards and to that extent would damage rather than aid the public. Moreover the only organized and uninspired demand for compulsory labeling that has ever made